Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Sweet milk pudding

If there is one dessert that means love to me, it would have to be Rubree - my grandmother's laboriously made pudding out of simply milk and sugar. She would always stand over the stove for an hour, stirring her metal pot every so often, tasting it now and then, and patiently. That in itself is comforting from a parent, because milk has been that, at least for my grandmother, and somehow I've carried that on with me. It's not that I'm a milk fiend, but it has a place in my repertoire, because it's been utilized very efficiently in my family.

Rubree is rich milk pudding with the texture of milk fat - it is almost like ricotta cheese, but not quite, because the milk has a sort of carmel flavor at the end. This dish is simply whole milk, sugar, cardamom, saffron if you have it, and chopped pistachios and almonds as a garnishing. The secret is long-cooking and stirring often so that nothing burns at the bottom.

It is eaten cold. My grandfather is nostalgic about his past in Karachi when his mother used to give him rubree with flatbread -- even though we think that's unusual. But it is all about nostalgia which makes us make things in certain ways. And to share with special people.

Serves 3

4 cups whole milk
1/3 cup sugar
2 cardamom pods
a pinch of saffron
2 tbs chopped almonds and pistachios, finely chopped

In a heavy bottom pan, pour in the milk and bring to a boil on medium heat. Then add the sugar, cardamom and saffron. Leave on the stove on a gurgling simmer, about medium-low heat, and stir every 5 - 7 minutes, making sure the milk does not burn or stick to the bottom. Stir gently so as not to break up the milk fat that forms while it is boiling, since it's essentially the milk fat that you are after. After about 40 minutes, add the nuts. You will see that the milk has reduced almost by 2/3 and changed from white to cream-colored. Continue to cook 15 - 20 minutes longer until it is thick as pudding but still has a little bit of liquid - about half milk fat and half milk liquid. Cool in the refrigerator, which will thicken it further.

Pick out the cardamom pods before serving cold.

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